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NORTHUMBERLAND RAIL: Government urged to back £140m regeneration

NORTHUMBERLAND RAIL: Government urged to back £140m regeneration

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The government has been urged to back a £140 million regeneration of North East communities kickstarted by the reopening of the Newcastle to Northumberland rail line.

Passenger services are due to return to the disused line by December 2023 after ministers backed plans to reopen it, bringing crucial new transport links connecting the city centre with Ashington, Blyth, Bedlington, Seaton Delaval and Northumberland Park.

And council leaders are hoping to capitalise on the massive rail boost with an influx of new homes and jobs along a new ‘economic corridor’ created by the renewed trainline.

The North of Tyne Combined Authority (NTCA), which covers Newcastle, North Tyneside, and Northumberland, has asked the government to put up £35 million to co-sponsor its strategy to deliver a “transformational change”.

That ‘Catalyst Fund’ would form part of a wider £140 million investment package, which also includes the government’s Town Deals and Brownfield Housing funding for the region.

NTCA bosses say that an estimated 4,000 new homes could be built as part of the programme, particularly around the proposed railway stations at Ashington, Blyth, Seaton Delaval and Northumberland Park.

It is also hoped that the improved transport links will act as a key incentive for major employers to set up in the North of Tyne area, creating thousands of jobs – especially those with links to the offshore wind and clean energy sector already prominent in south east Northumberland.

At a NTCA cabinet meeting on Tuesday afternoon, Northumberland County Council leader Glen Sanderson said: “It [the Northumberland line] is a great project because it is going to link our towns and our communities, it is going to make travel much easier whether it is headed into Newcastle or Northumberland, and it will make the train so much better to use than cars and save significant quantities of CO2 emissions.

“The next stage is the economic corridor strategy… essentially what this is about is jobs, housing, and development sites along the railway so that it is not just a railway, it is a new hub of employment and opportunity.”

His deputy, Richard Dodd, added: “The transformation will not be seen immediately but I would imagine the prices of houses and property and business activity in that area is going to improve and people are going to invest. That is what we require in this county and in the North East.”

According to an NTCA report, talks with the government over the project “have been positive and constructive” but a tangible agreement on the £35 million funding is now needed.

The report adds that the new train services have “potential to catalyse the housing market to both meet strong demand for new homes whilst driving housing renewal of the poorer and older stock” and “can be a fundamental driver in transitioning the communities and businesses across the North of Tyne from its proud industrial legacy to a clean growth future”.

The cabinet agreed on Tuesday to set aside up to £500,000 to develop further business cases and carry out feasibility studies for potential investments along the rail line.

North Tyneside elected mayor Norma Redfearn said: “This has tremendous benefits. As someone in the authority who is dedicated to bringing better housing, what a potential along that area – and for jobs too.”

Words: Daniel Holland, Local Democracy Reporter

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